Colder days and darker evenings can leave you with a case of the winter blues, but when does it become more serious…

Despite relatively good weather all year round, a growing number of Australians are reporting a downturn in their mood during the winter months. While we all get a case of the ‘winter blues’ now and again, at what point does it go from just feeling a bit flat to a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

A Fine Line

SAD, as it is commonly known, is a medical condition in which individuals experience prolonged periods of depression during the winter months each year. Greg Murray, professor of psychology at Swinburne University, says that the condition is different to the common downturn in mood people often experience as the weather gets colder.

“Most of us want to sleep more, put on a bit more weight, are attracted to fatty foods, so there are some biological mechanisms that predispose us to being a little less motivated in winter than at other times of the year,” he said. “If your mood is having a marked impact on your ability to function or impacts your thoughts and feelings about self, seek help.”

Professor Murray says that only 1 in 300 Australians will be diagnosed with SAD, requiring cognitive behavioural therapy, bright light treatment or medication to help them overcome the condition.

Waiting It Out

Some sceptics have argued that Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a legitimate disorder, and that people who experience a recurring downturn in their mood during winter should ‘wait it out’, but Professor Murray says that any form of depression requires intervention. “Depression, by definition, if it is at a diagnosable level, is where our system has adopted an unusual orientation and maybe we no longer have access to those constructive thoughts and behaviours that would normally see us through,” he said.

Professor Murray said that winter tends to make exercising regularly and socialising with friends more difficult, which could also contribute to periods of low mood, so prioritising these activities as part of your routine could go a long way to improving your mental health.

Winter can make everything just that little bit harder so remember to be kind to yourself – a warm bath, a strong cup of tea and a good book can make even the darkest evening a little brighter.

Do you find yourself feeling a little down during the winter months? Let us know in the comments.

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  • I have clinical depression & have had for ten+ years. However, it is managed. During the winter though for as long as I can remember, my moods just take a dive & are much harder to improve. It’s wonderful to see an acknowledgement of this & research being done into it!

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  • I always feel more unhappy in winter, and I think thats due to less time being able to be spent outside exercising or just enjoying the sun. I can understand how this can really affect some people

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  • I love winter, I love tracky pants and cardies, love the change in season

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  • Sun, fresh air and exercise has always helped me whenever I felt a little down – attune to nature and you will always feel so much better.

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  • For those who suffer this light therapy and tanning bed sessions can really help as the light and warmth really effects the mood.

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  • I dun like winter either. Feels like hiding under my blanket and sleep forever if i dun need to eat or work. And now with kids its even harder cause they always wake up in the coldest hour!

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  • It’s pretty mild where we live so I don’t think it’s a problem there but definitely in really cold places it could be very isolating.

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  • my Husband finds it very hard in the Winter, cold and dark and he is much more moody, sad, distempered and much harder to live with lol

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  • Yeah, winter is always a bit harder for me.

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  • We haven’t very cold winters here in Australia. Growing up in the Netherlands we had sometimes night temperatures from -15 and day temperatures of -2 C.
    Mind you, I didn’t drive a car and biked everything in rain, wind, snow and ice. Left the Netherlands when I was 38yrs old. And then lived for 8yrs in Northern Ireland. Although the winters weren’t as cold as in the Netherlands, it was the lack of summer / sun what hit me there./ The continuous cloudy grey rainy days and lack of sun made me really feel down. The summers there are most of the time about the same temperatures of our winter…
    Moving to Oz was really good for me, I love the summer !

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  • I think it is a real thing and effects some people really bad. Cold weather can make it hard to get out as some times it is the wet season too.

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  • Ooh never heard of this before

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  • Yes! Although I get it when it’s hot too, soo…
    but I definitely keep up the hot drinks through the day in winter!

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  • Only when I start putting on winter weight.

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  • I quite enjoy winter and the cooler months.

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